This week, Neil Calloway looks at the decline of sequels at the box office…
This week brought the news that several of 2016’s slate of sequels had not fared as well at the box office as the films they were following. The headlines may give succour to those who are tired of the seemingly endless sequels, remakes and reboots, but it is far from clear whether this is a trend across cinema or just the inevitable decline in takings from films nobody really demanded sequels to.
Zoolander was a cult classic for fifteen years, but nobody was really screaming for a follow up, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the sequel has grossed less than $30 million dollars against almost $70 million for the original.
The Kung Fu Panda films are like a downward spiral of diminishing returns; the first film grossed $257 million, the second $176m and the third $143m. You might have enjoyed the first film, but by the time the third came around, were you really dragging your kids to the cinema to see it? There’s a reason Disney made straight to video sequels to their successful animations for so long; bash them out cheaply and make money from fans of the original and easily pleased kids without the expense of marketing and distributing a theatrical release. Studios seem to have forgotten that.
A look at the box office statistics for last year will show that people aren’t tiring of sequels; Jurassic World and The Force Awakens didn’t exactly disappoint when it came to making money, did they? The problem comes when studios go for what they think is the safe option and churn out yet another average sequel to an average film. Who walked out of Now You See Me and thought Oh man, I can’t wait for a follow up”? Not many, hence why the sequel took $6 million less on its opening weekend than the original.
Of course, opening weekends are more important to sequels; there’s a chance an original film could be a sleeper hit and still make money after a slow opening weekend, but with a sequel people already know what they are going to get so word of mouth won’t play as big a part in the marketing of the film.
Sequels to forgettable films are the lazy option that talks down to audiences; just because people queue up to see another MCU or Star Wars film, it doesn’t mean we’re waiting with bated breath for the another Zac Efron and Seth Rogen comedy. These latest statistics show that despite popular belief we aren’t all running off to see movies just because we saw (and enjoyed) the original. There’s a whole universe out there for comic book films or a science fiction franchise to explore, so another instalment might be interesting; you can’t really say that about a Kevin Hart/Ice Cube movie.
We all like a sequel; another fun adventure with familiar characters where we don’t have to spend the first twenty minutes getting our head around the premise, but that doesn’t mean every film we like deserves a sequel. The box office appears to show that we’re turning our back on the pointless sequel, which is a good thing.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future instalments.